Our children build a sense of self-efficacy when they realize that their own actions have produced successful outcomes rather than believing success was generated by my parents’ actions. Over helping and over directing can prevent the necessary experiences of “successful failures.” Having chores at home can be helpful. Consider how you create an environment for developing independence.
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, at times, even somewhat conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:30 Parenting to build greater independence. An article titled, “Four Steps to Coax Young Adults and Their Parents to Greater Independence” by Linda Flanagan, introduced me to the work of Julie Lythcott-Haims, who is the author of the book, “Your Turn: How to be an Adult” and a Ted talk presenter whose video, “How to Raise Successful Kids Without Over-Parenting,” is a recommended watch by me. I will include links to all these resources in the lead-in to this podcast. As the past Dean at Stanford, Lythcott-Haims describes the negative impact of helicopter parenting. That’s over parental involvement. She states, “with our overhead, our overprotection and over direction and handholding, we deprive our kids of the chance to build self-efficacy, which is a really fundamental tenant of the human psyche. Far more important than that of self-esteem that they get every time we applaud.
Steve: 01:52 Self-efficacy is built when one sees that one’s own actions lead to the outcomes, not one’s parents action on one’s behalf. If our children are to develop self-efficacy and they must, then they have to do a whole lot more of the thinking planning, deciding, doing, hoping, coping, trial and error, dreaming, and experiences of life for themselves.” Lythcott-Haims suggest that as parents, we need to be a little less obsessed with grades and score and a whole lot more interested in students’ childhoods by providing for their success, built on things like love and chores. She references a long longitudinal study conducted by the Harvard grant study. They found that one of the indicators of professional success came from doing chores as a kid. They stated that the earlier you started, the better. That roll up your sleeves and a pitch in mindset is a mindset that says there’s some unpleasant work and someone’s got to do it and it might as well be me.
Steve: 03:23 It’s a mindset that says I will contribute my effort to the betterment of the whole. And that’s a mindset that gets you ahead in the workplace. She suggests when we absolve kids from doing some work of chores around the house, they may miss developing the instinct of looking around, rolling up their sleeves and pitching in and asking, “how can I be useful?” Being useful to my colleagues is an important future life skill. How can I anticipate a few steps ahead of what my boss might need? The second finding from the Harvard grant study suggested that happiness in life comes from love. Not love of work, but love of humans. Love of our spouse, our partner, our friends, our family. So childhood needs to teach kids how to love and they can’t love others if they don’t first love themselves.
Steve: 04:31 And they won’t love themselves if we can’t offer them unconditional love. Lythcott-Haims suggests, “instead of being obsessed with grades and scores when our precious off spring come home from school, or we come home from work, we need to close our technology, put away our phones, look them in the eye and let them see the joy that fills our faces when we see our child for the first time in a few hours. And then we have to say, how was your day? What did you like about today? They need to know that they matter to us as humans, not because of their GPA.” Her views are reinforced by the Challenge Success Organization at Stanford. You’ll find their posts at challengesuccess.org. They suggest that we have a problem of a too narrow definition of success that’s hurting kids today. They suggest that too many students believe that success is defined solely by grades, test scores or admission to the right college.
Steve: 05:51 But that comes at a cost. Their surveys of over a quarter million middle and high school students revealed that 95% are sleep deprived, 77% experienced stress related health symptoms, 63% are constantly worried about academics, 62% say workload is a major source of stress and 47% are disengaged or simply “doing school.” They propose that we need to embrace a broader definition of success and transform the student experience. They believe that all students should be valued for their own interests, unique talents, and individual definitions of success. They shouldn’t have to choose between doing well and being well. I love this quote I found on their site: “Success measured over the course of a lifetime not the end of the semester.” Here are a few of their recommendations for parents. They suggest that parents should act as cheerleaders and supporters, not as homework police.
Steve: 07:13 You’ll find lots of reinforcement for that in my earlier parent blogs on parents as learning coaches to our children. They suggest that it’s important as parents that we realize that children learn in different ways and have different work styles. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs about parents working with their children, there’s a common mistake we can make in looking to create an environment that matches our style when what we really need to do is join our youngsters and experimenting and finding what environments for learning work best for them. Who learns better standing at the kitchen counter versus being alone in their bedroom at a desk. Who learns better laid out on the floor or listening to music than working, again, alone at a desk. Discovering the styles and engaging your youngster in figuring out what works best for them is critical and valuable.
Steve: 08:15 Another recommendation is that parents need to look at the scheduling we do have students after school activities. What kind of time is needed for a healthy schedule that allows time for homework, allows time for extra activities and allows time for adequate sleep and play. They also suggest that parents advocate for a healthy homework policy at your school. A starting point is to communicate what you know about your child and homework challenges to your child’s teacher. I’m thinking this year is especially valuable because many parents learned a lot about how their child best learns during the time of virtual schooling and the quarantine. Consider how you might share with teachers things that you have learned or encourage your child to share with their teacher the things they’ve learned about themselves during this past year. And lastly, they recommend that we let children make mistakes and experience successful failures. Know that a missed or poorly done homework assignment every now and then is not going to hurt your child in the long run. As parents, we might help organize time or prioritize assignments, but when parents regularly deliver forgotten assignments to school or step into rescue a child at the last minute, we may be denying our children the opportunity to develop resilience and fortitude.
Steve: 09:58 I’ll close out with two images that I found while working on this podcast. The first comes from Lythcott-Haims who admitted that early on, she attempted to raise her children like Bonzai trees, hoping to shape them perfectly. And then she realized that kids are really more like wild flowers of an unknown genus and species. Our parenting role is creating the environment that nurtures them. That really matched another picture painted by Sir Ken Robbins. As teachers and parents, we create the conditions for success, just like gardeners do. You can’t make a flower grow, but you can design and improve the conditions for that flow of naturally occurring events. It’s the same for our kids. We have the power and the duty to create the best conditions for them to flourish. I really like his word choice there of naturally occurring events. As parents, we don’t have control over many of the events in our youngsters lives. We do have the opportunity to create the conditions for them to respond to those naturally occurring events. I celebrate your parenting and caring adult involvement in shaping the environment for our children to grow. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 11:37 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.